Influencer Spotlight: How @imstillhungry_ Causes Food Craving MeltdownsFebruary 1, 2017
True warning: looking at Michael’s Instagram feed while hungry is a health hazard because you will walk away craving food from all over Sydney and half the world. This Instagram is a study in sumptuous food photography. @imstillhungry_ belongs to a rare breed of Instagrammers who write comprehensive food reviews of the places he eats. You should definitely check out his guide to the best burgers and ramen in Sydney because that’s what we call dedication (and a very logical scoring system).
Can you give us some insight into your background – what you studied, where you worked? How did you get into photography and Instagramming?
What I learned at university actually had very little to do with the blog. I studied Information Systems, which is about as dry as it sounds. At the moment I work for a bank, and my previous work experience were also at financial institutions with different licks of paint – feeling like sandpaper yet? You could say that the desire to let out a bit of creativity via the blog stemmed from this, notwithstanding the elephant in the room: my love of food.
As for getting into photography – that’s something I can pinpoint. It was in 2011 and I visited New Zealand for the first time. For those of you who don’t know – NZ is probably one of the most beautiful places in the world, and I say this without hyperbole. Can you imagine what it was like being the guy whose best camera was his smartphone? And this was 2011 mind you – the cameras on those little pieces of plastic were barely better than what a potato would take. That’s how I got into photography (I started out with a Nikon D7000).
How would you describe your Instagram’s ‘brand’ and what was the process to getting to that identity?
Food, food, and more food. Instagram has traditionally been an afterthought to my blog, which is where the real meat of the matter lies. While Instagram is an excellent visual medium, I saw it as a “quick fix” – something for those who don’t have 10 minutes to read a dedicated blog post. With that said, over the last year I’ve begun to take Instagram more seriously over the years. As the adage goes – in social media, you go where your audience goes. I have to admit, it’s easier for me as well – though I’m definitely still full steam ahead with my main baby (the blog).
At the moment, I would say my IG is “in flux”. For the longest time, I’ve been wholly, exclusively about food. However, I want to incorporate a bit of that “travel bug” itch into my feed – food and travel are inextricably linked, so this was a natural direction. There’ll be the occasional non-food photo and while they get less engagement, that’s okay as it allows me to expand my scope slowly, but surely.
What were the biggest challenges to building your Instagram platform? Can you give us some examples?
The biggest challenge is – by far – patience. We all know that great quality content is a given. What’s hard is waiting for the fruits of labour to show. That took quite some time – and it’s a process that will never end.
How long did it take for your Instagram to build its following and how did you handle the initial lack of likes, reposts and attention?
Goodness, it’s been so long I can’t even remember. I would say at least three years? It’s definitely not a fast growing account compared to many nowadays that can reach 5 digits in a matter of months, but that goes back to the “patience” point I made earlier. As for the initial lack of engagement, I honestly didn’t care – it was all about the blog back then, Instagram was only there because others were using it.
Who do you enjoy following on Instagram and who inspires you?
If you go through my followings list, you’ll actually find very few food-based accounts. They’re predominantly amazing landscape/night/travel/street photographers. These are the people that actually inspire me. Food photography is relatively easy (professional food photogs, please don’t shoot me down!) in the sense that I’m a lot more accustomed to it, so my inspirations would naturally draw from sources who are far superior and different to me in their respective fields of photography.
Do you have any go-to rules or tricks for photographing food to maximise its appeal?
Rule #1: get the good light. Natural/ambient is ideal – you know how you can spot a food blogger? When they insist on the table by the window 😉
Rule #2: try to focus on the details of the particular dish you’re photographing. I find that cutting off a portion of the dish is often quite stimulating. If that fails, filling the frame is a safe bet.
Rule #3: please, please please review the photo you’ve just taken to make sure it’s sharp.
Rule #4: never use on-camera/phone flash. Just no.
How do you deal with restaurant etiquette when you have to photograph food while dining out, especially at fine dining or formal events? Are there any dos and don’ts?
I have several rules for this as well:
Dress the part – you just happen to have an additional accessory in the form of a camera.
Don’t use any kind of flash (this really peeves me and unfortunately too many people are now doing it). Extension: don’t stand on chairs. Exception circumstances: an invite or event where there is an explicit/implicit obligation to take photos.
Never manipulate the plate in such a way that it stops being a reflection of what a regular diner will receive. The moment you begin taking liberties with the food, you deviate from reality (this only applies to food bloggers really; styling is a different matter).
If you take more than a minute to take a photo of a dish, you’re taking way too long. Nobody wants to eat cold/soggy/suboptimal food.